There's never been a pick-up quite like the Ford Ranger Raptor. Jonathan Crouch drives it.
If you've ever daydreamed just how much of a hoot it would be to race along off road trails in the way that competition drivers do on the Paris-Dakar or Baja Rallies, then you're in good company: Ford thought it would be fun too and tasked its 'Performance' department with creating an ultimate Ranger derivative that could do just that - and here it is, the Ranger Raptor. There's nothing else quite like it.
If you know anything about American pick-up trucks, you'll know about the Ford Raptor, a huge US light truck based on the Blue Oval brand's enormous F150 model and powered by a wild engine from the Ford GT supercar. The company didn't think that vehicle would work over here, but they have built some of its technology into a more Euro-friendly Ford Performance pick-up model - and this is it, the Ranger Raptor. Don't expect extreme power here; the Ranger Raptor uses exactly the same 210PS 2.0-litre EcoBlue diesel engine you'll find in top versions of the standard model. But this vehicle isn't built for straight line tarmac speed. Instead, Ford has completely redesigned the suspension of this pick-up so that it can be driven at previously unheard-of speeds of rough terrain. And we're going to test it.
What matters here is not the powertrain (which is the same 213PS 2.0-litre EcoBlue diesel and 10-speed auto gearbox combination you'd find in an ordinary top-spec Ranger) but a bespoke chassis and suspension set-up that enables you to better use it at higher speeds over rough off road surfaces. The frame is heavily reinforced with high-strength steel. And completely re-engineered at the back to accommodate a unique rear suspension design that ditchers the regular leaf springs, replacing them with coil springs and a special Watts linkage to help locate the live rear axle and stop it swaying about. This package of uprated component parts is designed to withstand travelling cross-country or over desert tracks at speeds of up to 105mph. This is, in short, a rough road sportscar and it's as close to a Dakar rally racer as a production model is probably ever going to get. In keeping with that remit, this Raptor gets uprated springs all round, special FOX Motorsport dampers and bespoke 17-inch wheels shod with knobbly BF Goodrich KO2 tyres featuring specially-strengthened sidewalls. The result at speed off road is quite astonishing stability at speed over bumps and ridges. It really is fantastic fun providing you don't go too wild, especially if you select rally-orientated 'Baja' mode - one of six available through the Raptor's bespoke 'Terrain Management' system; the others are 'Normal' and 'Sport', plus three further settings for lower speed work - a 'Grass Gravel Snow' option, a 'Mud & Sand' option and, for inching along gullies, a dedicated 'Rock' mode.
This top Raptor Ford Performance model has a tad more street presence than ordinary variants and gains it with a unique grille that, as you can see, features FORD lettering rather than the usual Blue Oval badge. This Raptor model is also 168mm wider than a standard variant, thanks to its redesigned suspension and a track width that's 150mm greater. Inside, with this flagship 'Ford Performance' variant, you get powered leather-and-suede sports seats which are 'Raptor'-branded, as is the leather-bound sports steering wheel with its track-style red centre marker and lovely magnesium gearshift paddles. Blue stitching features subtly here - and more prominently on the gearshift gaitor, the door card trimming and the leather covering for the fascia top. As with all top Ranger variants, you get a SYNC 3 8-inch centre-dash infotainment touchscreen with a FordPass Connect WiFi modem. Anything this monitor can't tell you will be covered off by the instrument binnacle display which features a central screen with selectable sections. On this Raptor model, this screen also displays your various drive mode options and with this top variant, the two analogue gauges that flank it get sportier italicised Ford Performance dials. We'll finish by focusing on the space you get in the rear of this Double Cab-only variant. Though this vehicle is actually narrower than an ordinary Ford Mondeo (and up to 100mm narrower than some of its rivals), it is possible to get three adults across this back seat without too much discomfort.
This top Raptor 'Ford Performance'-engineered variant is offered only with the 213PS version of the brand's 2.0-litre EcoBlue diesel engine mated to 10-speed auto transmission. The Raptor is the only derivative in the Ranger line-up with a payload capacity of under a tonne - and that's significant here because it means this version, unlike its showroom stablemates, can't be classified as a commercial vehicle and therefore, if you're buying one for your business, you can't claim the VAT back. Consequently, the Raptor costs a rather sizeable sum - around £48,000 with VAT included - about £16,000 more than the VAT-exclusive price of an equivalent Ranger Wildtrack model with exactly the same engine and transmission combination. Which might make a prospective Raptor buyer stop and think. Still, you get plenty of kit to justify that sum. The main things you're paying for we've covered elsewhere in this film - the FOX Pro shock absorbers with position-sensitive damping, the strengthened chassis with its more substantial body and the extra driving settings that include the special 'Baja' Dakar rally mode where the engine and chassis are set up to cover rough ground very quickly indeed. Of course, there's also plenty else. The wheels are actually a size smaller than those on the Wildtrack - you get 17-inch 'Dyno Grey' alloy rims - but they look bigger because they're shod with huge, knobbly BF Goodrich All-Terrain tyres.
There are no practicality compromises in choosing this Raptor variant, which features the same 1.21 cubic metre load box as other variants. There's a load box length of 1,575mm. And a load box width of 1,560mm, narrowing to 1,139mm between the wheel arches. Which is easily enough to accommodate a Europallet. You'll have to lift it up quite high though; the loading height in this Raptor derivative is up at 906mm. The load box depth is 541mm. as we've mentioned elsewhere in this film, this Ford Performance model's revised suspension means a significantly reduced payload figure of just 620kgs. And running costs? Well it's here that Ford's decision not to plumb in a big petrol motor up-front pays dividends. The Raptor's efficiency figures are significantly worse than those of other Ranger derivatives but they're still manageable - WLTP-rated at 26.4mpg and 281g/km. The Raptor is homologated as a light goods vehicle for VED purposes, so for road tax, the government will treat this ultimate Ford Performance model like any other pick-up. Which means you pay just £260 a year in road tax.
There's absolutely no point in buying a Ranger Raptor if you never try it at speed off road. But when you do, what this Ford can achieve is absolutely astonishing. Other powerful pick-ups would simply shake themselves to pieces trying to keep up. Yes, it would be nice to have a huge V6 or V8 beneath the bonnet but as we've said, that's not what this truck is all about. It'll take you to places that only the most capable off roaders will go and it'll travel there far quicker than any of them. In short, it's an off-road sports car - and the perfect addition to a millionaire's garage already full of supercars and extreme sports saloons. You don't need a Ranger Raptor but if you're a car enthusiast, we're guessing that like us, you'd really, really like one. It's wild, it's unusual and it's unique. As every Ford Performance model should be.